Humza Yousaf has rejected UK Government claims that Scottish ministers make foreign government officials “uncomfortable” because of the constitution. 

The First Minister was speaking at a meeting of the British Irish Council in Jersey, where he met with the leaders of Ireland, Wales and Jersey and Guernsey, and the Isle of Man.

Levelling Up Minister Michael Gove represented the Westminster Government in the absence of the Prime Minister.

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Last month, Foreign Secretary James Cleverly wrote to British diplomats instructing them to take a “strengthened approach” to visits involving Scottish ministers and foreign governments.

He also asked for UK representatives to be at any talks after becoming unhappy about Scottish ministers discussing independence while on UK-supported trips abroad.

On Monday, Scottish Secretary Alister Jack told MPs that he had been told by representatives of foreign governments of their unhappiness at SNP politicians talking about the constitution. 

He told MPs: “Consuls of foreign countries have made this point to me directly that they find it uncomfortable when the Scottish government raise separation, independence or other constitutional foreign affairs issues with them because . . . the French or the Spanish consul or ambassador would no more want to have to organise a meeting . . . with, say, the separatists in Catalonia or Corsica with UK government ministers, nor would they expect us to meet with separatists from other countries.”

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Asked about the comments, the First Minister said that was “not the characterisation that I would use by any stretch of the imagination, quite the opposite”.

He added: “Whenever I’m engaged with foreign governments, ambassadors, with ministers, with heads of state, there’s been a really warm approach to Scotland.

“I think for me, it’s so important that when we are here on the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, we remind ourselves of the importance of devolution, but also, frankly, the fragility of devolution.”

Asked about his meetings with Mr Gove, he said there had been a “robust” discussion.

He added: “I think it’s really important that we keep the engagement, the dialogue going, but Michael certainly knows my reservations and my concerns around the pattern of behaviour that we have seen recently around the erosion of devolution.”

The Herald:

Asked whether the pair had a chance to resolve the conflict between the two governments, Mr Gove said: “We didn’t touch on that issue, but we had an informal chat within ourselves and we had a chance to talk one-on-one this morning.

“The First Minister brought up a number of issues, and I think it’s fair to say that both of us, both governments, are committed to working together in the interests of the people of Scotland.”